Planning For Your Grandchildren
For new grandparents, it’s important to know how to plan for your grandkids so they can have resources growing up. Our responses as grandparents can range from financial support and occasional visits to actively helping to raise the children. This often happens in the event of the parents’ heavy schedules, divorce, death, or other major life changes that can result in grandparents gaining new responsibilities for their grandchildren up to and including becoming their primary guardians. Even without major caretaking, though, there is an expectation for grandparents to help grandchildren with college and other financial matters, share gifts, and spend time together.
Foster parenting within families is called “kinship care”, and it is becoming increasingly common with rising populations of seniors. More common is the situation of parents keeping custody of their children with the grandparents’ part-time assistance; as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. These situations change the relationship between grandchildren and grandparents, in both positive and negative ways. Grandparents involved in caring for their grandchildren gain a sense of fulfillment and close relationship but also face distinct new stresses.
This article will explain how to provide grandchildren with various kinds of resources, help plan their futures, and balance the relationship with your own needs so the stress doesn’t overwhelm you. The first step of helping your grandchildren with their futures is to consult with your children (their parents) before the grandchildren are even born if you can. Knowing the path your children are on can help you understand the life circumstances your grandchildren will likely face, and conversations with your children can prepare you all for any unplanned life changes. A good relationship with your grandchildren can improve their self-esteem and happiness early on and provide you with a valuable company into old age.
Difficulties of Planning for Grandchildren
Planning for grandchildren has difficulties for grandparents of all roles. Even when you have the traditional role of spending time with them with some financial support, money can be tight; when you play a part- or full-time role in raising your grandchildren, all the stresses of being a parent return. If the circumstances and extent of your involvement with your grandchildren are less than fortunate, you may feel disappointed in your child’s parenting. It’s best to communicate with your child and resolve issues and your roles without letting the grandchildren know about any negative feelings, as that could upset or confuse them. Denying yourself negative feelings and expressing them in non-constructive ways both create more problems than they solve, so it’s important to be mindful.
Old age is usually a time of relaxed schedules that make the traditional grandchild-grandparent relationship easy to handle, but taking an active role in raising your grandchildren can conflict with your schedule. Many people put off retirement until the point where they have enough money to support children and grandchildren. But what you can’t put off is adequate nutrition, sleep, exercise, medication, doctor visits, relaxation, or home maintenance. Helping to raise grandchildren can make their needs and yours a balancing act –but rest assured, there are ways to meet everyone’s needs. Your network of friends and family or support groups will understand your experiences or the stress you feel about them.
Being a grandparent always involves tending to your grandchildren’s emotional needs, even more so if you take an active role in their upbringing. The same issues that necessitated this change will be affecting them as well, and there’s a delicate balance between validating these emotions, letting them know the feelings will pass, and setting ground rules for their behavior. If you play the less involved traditional role, especially with geographical distance, it’s important to make the most of your time together in order to maintain a strong bond. The next section of this article outlines the planning process more thoroughly.
How to Plan for Your Grandchildren
As mentioned, share conversations with your children if they’re around and on good terms with you so you’ll both know the role you’ll play. Generally, planning your last will and testament involves talking to your children about inheritance with special regard to the needs of future generations; discussing family heirlooms and traditions to pass down, either now or after your death, is another important conversation for all grandparents. Deciding on the financial role you’ll play involves budgeting your savings either yourself or with professional help. Savings are something to establish at least as soon as you are confident that you will eventually have grandchildren.
There are plenty of guides to help you understand your grandchildren’s emotional needs and responses at different ages, and of course, recalling how your children acted can help. Young children often express their feelings indirectly through play, and teenagers are notoriously reluctant about opening up; in any case, it’s best to encourage them to talk, listen to them, and provide either sympathy or advice depending on what they want. When it comes to difficult topics, explain things without overwhelming them with complex issues or lying –by omission or otherwise. Taking an active role in your grandchild’s upbringing requires these conversations frequently, but even a traditional role can involve talking to grandchildren about life changes currently on their minds.
If your children come to you for any level of parenting help, the advice you give them can be a major part of ensuring your grandchildren have resources. After all, they can remember and think critically about some things you did for them. No matter your involvement, there are some practices that you and your children can follow for making households conducive to children’s growth. These include giving siblings physical and emotional space to grow alongside each other, setting healthy boundaries as to how kids and their caretakers can behave, giving them your attention and care regularly, and following routines to teach kids regular eating, sleeping, and bathing habits. Teach them both information and where to look for more so that they grow up with a clear direction.
Whether you give the parents input or play a direct role in their upbringing, planning for your grandchildren will help them grow into adults able to carry on the family legacy.
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